Two-equation turbulence models are analyzed from the perspective of spectral closure theories. Kolmogorov theory provides useful information for models, but it is limited to equilibrium conditions in which the energy spectrum has relaxed to a steady state consistent with the forcing at large scales; it does not describe transient evolution between such states. Transient evolution is necessarily through nonequilibrium states, which can only be found from a theory of turbulence evolution, such as one provided by a spectral closure. When the departure from equilibrium is small, perturbation theory can be used to approximate the evolution by a two-equation model. The perturbation theory also gives explicit conditions under which this model can be valid, and when it will fail. Implications of the non-equilibrium corrections for the classic Tennekes-Lumley balance in the dissipation rate equation are drawn: it is possible to establish both the cancellation of the leading order Re1/2 divergent contributions to vortex stretching and enstrophy destruction, and the existence of a nonzero difference which is finite in the limit of infinite Reynolds number.